Thomas Jefferson and the Crime Commission

After reviewing some things I have in common with John Adams, I had to remember why I started studying the Founding Fathers anyway. As a young lawyer I was appointed by the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, to be a member of his “Citizens Crime Commission,” a group of volunteers who met monthly and discussed methods the Mayor could use to alleviate crime in the City.

In those days, every major city in America had such a commission. There was a National Citizens Crime Commission. It was 1976, the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. The National Commission was holding its national convention in Philadelphia that year. I was elected to represent the Arizona Crime Commission at the national convention. What an honor.

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Our Foundational Documents

People began moving to America for various reasons after it became a real possibility to make a life here. The real Founding of America as a new nation began with the French and Indian War in 1763. George Washington played a major part in that war as a member and leader of the Virginia militia, which was subject to the British General.

Then the Revolutionary War essentially began with the shots fired at the Battle of Lexington in 1775. George Washington was appointed to be the first Commanding Officer of the United Colonial Army soon thereafter.

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John Adams and I

Over the past 30 or so years I have been teaching about our Founding Fathers, I have come to love these men and their ladies. Each one has a secure place in my heart. But as I have been giving these presentations, I have had a affinity for John Adams.

It seems that my own life has had some parallels with John. We are about the same general size.  Of course, I am much more handsome than he. If you’ll recall, John went to college at his family’s insistence. Well, his fathers. He went to Harvard College, which at the time trained students to become ministers, teachers, or lawyers.

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The Founding Fathers and the Constitution

James Madison, known as “The Father of the Constitution”, explained that those prominent men at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, wanted the Constitution to be understood by the American population..

Gouverneur Morris (yes, that was his name) was named as the scrivener, or the man to put the concepts that were agreed upon in the meetings, into final form. In plain English. It was his intention to write the new document so it could be easily understood by a person with an eighth grade, or similar, education.

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Benjamin Franklin and Education

Franklin didn’t have much of a formal education, but he had a lion’s share of personal experience and the use of knowledge. But he did have some strong opinions on education for American children.

“I think with you,” he said, “that nothing is more important for the public weal (wealth or well-being) than to train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state, far more than riches or arms.”

He continued in this frame: “As to their studies, it would be well if they could be taught everything that is useful and everything that is ornamental. But art is long and time is short. It is therefore proposed that they be taught things that are most useful and most ornamental—in regard to the professions for which they are intended.

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George Washington and Thomas Paine

George Washington, of course, was elected unanimously to be the new General to lead the now United Colonial Army to fight the British in what was becoming the Revolutionary War.

He had some interesting help along the way. Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, General von Steuben, Nathan Hale, and even Thomas Paine. Paine was there when Washington crossed the Delaware for that famous battle of Trenton (and Princeton).

By night Paine sat by the campfire and used a drum head for a desk to write his 8 page pamphlet “The American Crisis.” Thomas Paine then walked 35 miles to Philadelphia where the editor of the Pennsylvania Journal, a newspaper, read his thesis written from his notes. The editor found it all worthy of printing. He published it immediately, printing 18,000 copies.

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Benjamin Franklin’s Parents

The parents of Benjamin Franklin don’t receive much fanfare, notoriety, or acclaim about the lives they lived. Ben talks a little about them in his Autobiography. One of the things they taught Ben was to obey the commandments of God. As a result, he did honor them. After all, Honor thy Father and Mother is the first commandment with a promise—that your life may be long in the land.

Here’s what Ben wrote in honor of his parents after their death:

“Josiah Franklin
and Abiah, His Wife
Lie here interred
They lived together loving in Wedlock
Fifty-five years
Without an estate of any gainful employment
By constant labour and industry
With God’s blessing
They maintained a large family
Comfortably
And brought up thirteen children
And seven grandchildren
Reputably
From this Instance, Reader
Be encouraged to Diligence in thy Calling
And distrust not Providence
He was a pious and prudent man
She a discreet and virtuous woman
Their youngest son
In filial regard to their Memory
Places this Stone
J.F. born 1655 Died 1744 Aetat (age) 89
A.F. born 1667 Died 1752 Aetat (age) 85

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Patrick Henry and Dolley Madison

We’ve had so much fun discovering fascinating incidents in the life of Dolley Madison, I went on longer than I had originally intended.

Just a few more items of interest. Molly Payne, Dolley’s mother, had a cousin named Patrick Henry. Patrick was a valiant Founding Father in his own right. Patrick had purchased a two story house which he, and the land title, referred to as Scotchtown. Probably because many of the immigrant workers on the nearby tin mines were from Scotland.

This home is where the Henry’s lived when Sallie Henry, Patrick’s first wife, became ill and eventually died. She died about 5 weeks before Patrick gave his immortal speech “Give Me Liberty.” Patrick had to ride horse-back from Scotchtown to Richmond, Virginia, a distance of about 28 miles, (just over a half hour by car—but Patrick went on his horse!) to attend the meeting where this speech was given.

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More On Dolley and James Madison

I once asked the kids in that Seniors government High School advanced class “When was the War of 1812?” They thought it was a trick question, and didn’t know at first. Someone finally realized that 1812 was the date of the War of 1812. It was a fun class!

In June of 1812, President Madison was fed up with the British attacks on our ships, and on their violations of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He asked Congress to give him a declaration of war. They did. The war had its ups and downs. In 1814 the British Army was marching to Washington, D.C. President Madison felt it was necessary for him to visit the front lines, see the state of things and encourage the soldiers.

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James and Dolley Madison

You will remember that Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. President from 1801 to 1809, and he selected James Madison, a fellow Virginian, as his Secretary of State.

But do you recall that Martha Jefferson had died before Tom became President? So Jefferson was a widower in the White House. He asked if James would allow Dolley to occasionally serve as the official hostess for State Dinners and other events at the discretion of the President. James thought that would be a benefit to both of them, and gave his approval.

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